New panel to fast-track infra projects

The Union cabinet approved the creation of a special panel on Thursday with watered down powers to speed up the slow implementation of big-ticket infrastructure projects.

The panel, to be chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, will fast-track projects worth Rs 1000 crore or more, said one minister who attended the cabinet meeting and who declined to be named.

The government hopes the new body will help to increase investment in an economy that is likely to slow in fiscal 2013 to its worst pace in a decade. Singh's chief economic adviser sees full-year growth of 5.5 per cent to 6 per cent. Infrastructure companies have pressed for the creation of such a board to speed up hundreds of delayed projects.

Regulatory hurdles, such as delayed land acquisition and environmental clearances, have held up projects worth over Rs 2 lakh crore in the road, power, coal and mining sectors alone, according to government data.

However, due to opposition within the government, the powers of the panel have been diluted and it will not be able to directly clear the projects.

Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan had stalled the panel’s creation for months, calling it authoritarian.

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